Two communities closer than you’d imagine. One tragedy has brought them closer in the worst imaginable way.
At least three people were killed on Sunday afternoon at a “Madden” video game tournament in Jacksonville, with several others ages 20-35 rushed to the hospital in another mass shooting in the state of Florida.
Police identified the shooter as David Katz, a gamer from Baltimore.
Jacksonville Sheriff identifies shooter as 24-year-old David Katz from Baltimore. He was here as a gamer. I’m not going to glamorize his name, but as a local reporter, it’s my job to put this out once, on the record. pic.twitter.com/br8afU5d6V
— Vic Micolucci WJXT (@WJXTvic) August 26, 2018
One gamer tweeted that he was shot in the thumb before fleeing.
I am literally so lucky. The bullet hit my thumb
— Drini Gjoka (@YoungDrini) August 26, 2018
The shooting happened during a Twitch broadcast of the competition, with audible gunshots interrupting the feed, so the trauma will ripple beyond those at the venue where the game was played.
That venue was in a restaurant at The Landing, a hub for sports fans in Duval County. TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is only about a mile from there, so people often crowd the riverfront area before and after football games. (The Jaguars were off from practice on Sunday.)
Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental U.S. by land area, however the part of town where the shooting occurred feels much more like a neighborhood, with bars and restaurants and fine arts. It’s as close to a downtown as Jacksonville has.
In a statement, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said, “I’m heartbroken for the families and friends of the victims and can only express my deepest condolences as we try to understand why and how this can happen, not only here, but anywhere.”
The coming days will bring grief to both the Jacksonville and gaming communities. EA Sports, which developed the “Madden” game played on Sunday, has a studio located in Orlando, which is only two hours away by car. This was somewhat of a local event for that company, as well.
“The gaming community is close regardless of what game you play,” says Alan Ortega, who represents the San Jose Earthquakes in the eMLS. “We all share the common interests of video gaming and the passion for it is all the same.”
Part of the sadness of this tragedy is how the gaming community is known as a supportive and caring one, despite the internal competition. Just last month, a gaming convention in Tampa raised $2.7 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Ortega often receives messages from fans who want to talk, and he sets aside time for them and others who are fending off isolation and dark feelings.
“It allows some people to escape from their problems or any negativity they might be going through for that moment,” he says. “It helps build friendships online.”
Now there is a possibility that at least in the short-term, gaming will trigger terrible memories for those competing at the elite level. Aside from the hurt he feels for those affected, Ortega worries about the negative affects this will have for gaming in general.
“Video games as a whole get a lot of negative attention and this isn’t going to help at all,” he says. “Now with something like this, people are going to think, ‘See, video games cause violence.’
“So it’s definitely a hard hit for the gaming community.”
It will be a hard hit for Jacksonville as well, a city that has big development plans for the area around The Landing. The Jaguars are a Super Bowl contender, so there is more excitement than usual heading into the Labor Day weekend. The days ahead will be tinged with sadness during what is usually a thrilling time of year.
Jacksonville will come together, and the gaming community will come together. It’s just sad and surreal that more families and friends are facing the horrible aftermath of one more Florida mass shooting.
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